Learn about the amazing Lindsey Kinder’s journey of becoming founder of Food La La. Follow along for my Interview with Lindsey Kinder of Food La La.
Was there a moment that you remember when you knew that you wanted to start your own business? What piqued your interest and made you know that this was the industry for you?
Lindsey: After college, I sold life insurance, and after five years, was one of two women—nationally—to be selected for a management training program. In completing the program, I got a glimpse into the problems my boss was solving and the meetings she was going on, and the more I learned, the less I was interested. At a crossroads I thought about what would make my 8-year-old self proud. Since I was young, I’ve been fascinated by the French. I loved how everything they produce—art, design, fashion, food— is so beautiful, yet so simple and I was curious about how they did it.
I quit my job, packed a 60-pound magenta rolling suitcase and bought a 1-way ticket to France to learn more about where great food comes from and what the French do with it to make it so special. At the time, I didn’t know what this experience would translate into, but I knew I needed to chart a new path for myself, and that if I leapt first, the answers would reveal themselves. I spent six months traveling solo, working for farmers, wine makers, and professional chefs—I also received a cuisine certificate from Le Cordon Bleu Paris.
Upon returning to the United States, I came to San Francisco and FOOD LA LA was born. The business has evolved tremendously; sometimes I don’t even believe how far we’ve come. It started with me baking French macarons out of a 900 square foot apartment, and now we host remarkable food and cocktail experiences for thousands of guests from premier brands and companies like Louis-Vuitton, Saks Fifth Avenue, Williams-Sonoma, Sephora, The Fairmont, Pinterest, and Netflix.
FOOD LA LA could be categorized into a few general industries, but I almost feel like what we do is so nichey, we’ve created our own. And honestly, that’s what I love the most. I get to create every day, with no rules.
Prior to founding FOOD LA LA, what prior jobs or career paths had you had that led to founding this company and brand?
Lindsey: In college, I studied business (with an emphasis in entrepreneurship), and then had five years of corporate sales training. I also earned a Cuisine Certificate from Le Cordon Bleu Paris and spent six months working as a stage (or intern) for several different French farmers.
But what I credit most of our success to is grit. I’ve never been afraid to just do something, even if I didn’t know how to do it, or it felt really hard. We take a run at something, then adjust. You will surprise yourself with what you can learn if you just get in there and try it.
Can you share more about the role you each have within the brand and who else is involved in your team day to day? As they say it takes a village. What does your village entail?
Lindsey: Oh I LOVE our village! As creator and CEO, I’m in charge of our overall vision, brand-creation, marketing, and our event execution (I do most of our on-camera hosting). Our other two full-time employees, Jennifer and Joanna are a real-life, twin-dream-team. Jen is our bar alchemist, and Jo our food alchemist. They both work on recipe, class, and kit development and currently manage all our packing and fulfillment. Jen also does a lot of our video production and client communications.
And our queen bee, our original head baker, is Martha! She’s the first person I hired, and the one who gave me the confidence that I could grow FOOD LA LA beyond my home kitchen. She works harder than anybody I’ve ever met. Though we no longer bake finished macarons (we primarily produce DIY kits) she helps with our assembly and production. Whenever we’re preparing for a new task, we always ask ourselves #WWMD.
What kind of formal training or resources, mentors did you seek to obtain the knowledge you needed to launch FOOD LA LA?
Lindsey: I honestly didn’t seek much—when I first started, I didn’t know all these wonderful resources even existed. You don’t know what you don’t know. Now, I’m part of several masterminds and Facebook groups that have been tremendously helpful when I need a quick answer, or to get some feedback from colleagues. I also love NPR’s podcast, How I Built This. Though all the stories are different, they have the same themes—nobody knows what they’re doing when they begin. ☺
Who has been the most influential mentor in your career?
Lindsey: I can’t choose an individual person, but my community of female business owners is extraordinary. I rarely meet a woman who isn’t eager to share knowledge, offer generous support, or connect me to the right person. Entrepreneurship can feel lonely but having a community of people who have been where you are is invaluable.
As a Chef & Culinary Creator, you lots of food and recipes. What is your favorite recipe that you make if you had to pick one?
Lindsey: Rice is one of those sneaky-tricky dishes—it’s just rice and water, and it should be so simple. And yet, somehow, it never turns out quite right. One of our first recipes we shared with the FOOD LA LA COOKING CLUB was my mom’s coconut rice. I make it all the time and constantly hear from our members how much they and their families love it!
What is one of the biggest mistakes you have made in your career?
Lindsey: When I first started catering, I sold twelve tickets to an intimate dinner (purchased primarily by some incredibly lovely friends) and the menu included a roasted wild salmon with tangerine beurre blanc. When the guests arrived, I was lighting candles and pouring champagne when I realized the salmon was still frozen. I cooked it anyway and as I browned each filet, I had to cut it open to make sure it wasn’t still frozen inside. My beautiful (and expensive) salmon filet turned to salmon hash and my guests ate a lukewarm meal, one plate at a time, for an hour and a half.
To distract my guests and keep the party moving, my dishwasher-server-boyfriend (now husband) poured several rounds of tequila shots. After the party, I was exhausted and—the worst part—embarrassed: I had just returned from studying cooking in France.
Lesson learned?! Above all else, thaw the freakin’ salmon.
What is your favorite spot for a bite in San Francisco where you call home?
Lindsey: Can I pick two? ☺ I love Coquetta—the ambiance is cozy, their bite-sharing menu creates a fun experience, and their list of gin & tonics is so inspired! And for something sweet: Our office is right above Sixth Course Dessert Boutique and they have gelato pops that would blow your mind.
Tell us something that would surprise people about you?
Lindsey: There’s a New York Times Bestselling novel dedicated to my sister and me (Go, dad!), and I played “the door” (a non-speaking role) in our big eight-grade musical.